Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Star by Charles E. Tittle Mexico October 11, 2008
This was our first cruise on NCL since cruising on the Norway many years ago. We have gone on a number of cruises before, including Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean, among others. My wife and I are in our early sixties and recently retired, so we looked for a bargain cruise and wound up going with my sister and her husband. We had a great time and would certainly cruise with NCL again.
Embarkation was a small hassle, as it usually is, but we encountered no major problems. The ship was clean, and the crew were friendly and attentive. Our stateroom, a mini-suite, was nice, and the balcony got a lot of use due to the warm weather once we left Los Angeles. The air conditioning in our suite worked very well--important to us because we like it cool when sleeping. The mini-suite, as others have pointed out, is really a glorified balcony cabin. There was not a lot of clearance around the bed, but that only caused us problems getting luggage past there. The storage closet was a little awkward to use, and there were no lights inside so it was difficult to see what was on the shelves. The bathroom was nice, and having a bathtub was also a nice bonus.
The ship's décor was an interesting mélange of art styles. We especially enjoyed looking at the art on the landings of each stairway. My sister and wife saw them a lot more than I did because they usually took the stairs from the 6th to the 11th and 12th decks-something my brother-in-law and I did not feel compelled to do! The Atrium was lovely as well.
We took NCL sponsored shore excursions and were very pleased with the tour operators. My wife and sister decided to try zip lining in Mazatlan, and they had a wonderful time. My brother-in-law and I were to take the river cruise and bird-watching expedition but it was cancelled, possibly because of rain; but we were never really told why it was cancelled. The ship did not inform us of the cancellation until after we disembarked and tried to find our tour operator on the pier. Admittedly this was a minor annoyance, but an unnecessary one. Our other excursions were the Land's End boat tour in Cabo St. Lucas and the ATV adventure in Puerto Vallarta. Both of these were well run and very enjoyable. The local tour operators were friendly, safety conscious, and fun. We felt the ship excursions were well worth the cost.
Food service was nice in the Versailles, the more formal of the main dining rooms. The Versailles was quite lovely and had lots of windows, and we chose to eat there almost every meal. The other main dining room, Aqua, was just okay the one day we ate there. The buffet was better than some we've had, but really pretty mediocre, and there was not a great deal of variety in the food available day to day. The OJ in the buffet was mostly water on several days we tried it. We also ate at the snack bar (Blue Lagoon) twice when the other restaurants were not open. It was mostly a hot dog and hamburger place, and the food was pretty much what you would expect. We celebrated my wife's birthday in Cagney's, the upscale steakhouse. It cost us about $80 because of the $20 cover per person, a bottle of wine, and an extra $10 to order crab legs. The staff there was extremely friendly and attentive, though, and my wife had a wonderful time-as did we. The Chocolate Extravaganza was a big disappointment, however. Not only was there not much variety, but you could barely see well enough to pick out what you wanted. The lights were turned down to make it more romantic, I guess, but it left us in the dark (literally!) when picking our selections.
While I realize that people who like to drink need to have service available, it became a little tiresome to keep refusing drink service from the somewhat over aggressive cocktail servers all over the ship. We did have drinks in two of the bars, and the entertainment there was quite pleasant. The ship had quite a few different bars tucked around in different areas, and most of them had singers or music of some sort.
We did walk around the ship to check out other venues. We did not use the spa or gym, but they looked quite nice. The library was something of a disappointment-particularly to my wife who is a retired school librarian. The books looked rather old, and the atmosphere was not very cozy, although they did serve coffee and tea. We walked through the teen section as well. It seemed to be a bit sparse-both with activities and teens. The cigar room was quite comfortable and situated in the middle of Deck 6.
We did not go to the shows in the main theater after we walked out of the first one because it was boring. They did have some Chinese acrobats at two of the shows, but we never managed to fit them in. The casino was crowded and the machines were low-pay by Atlantic City or Las Vegas standards. About what we should have expected, so we limited our play to quarter video poker.
We chose to use "Express Disembarkation" -a bit of a misnomer since we had to wait an hour in line because of some problem with the gangway. We were glad we made this decision; however, because we got to LAX in plenty of time to relax a little before our plane took off at 1:20 pm.
We definitely enjoyed this cruise. In fact, we have even considered repeating this very same cruise, and we have never felt that way before at the end of any of our other ones.